820 F.3d 1183 (10th Cir. 2016), 15-4062, Tooele County v. United States

Docket Nº:15-4062
Citation:820 F.3d 1183
Opinion Judge:BACHARACH, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:TOOELE COUNTY; STATE OF UTAH, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant -- Appellee, and SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE; THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY; SIERRA CLUB, Intervenor-Defendants. MICHAEL ABDO; SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE, Appellants
Attorney:Jess M. Krannich, Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC, Salt Lake City, Utah, (Stephen H.M. Bloch and Joseph J. Bushyhead, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Salt Lake City, Utah; Brent V. Manning and Alan C. Bradshaw, Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC, Salt Lake City, Utah with her on the bri...
Judge Panel:Before HARTZ, BACHARACH, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges. HARTZ, Circuit Judge, concurring. HARTZ, Circuit Judge, concurring:
Case Date:May 03, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
SUMMARY

This appeal concerned two suits: one in state and one in federal court, and statutory limitations on the power of the federal court to enjoin the state court case. In the federal case, the Utah Attorney General and the Board of Tooele County Commissioners sued the federal government under the Quiet Title Act, attempting to quiet title in favor of Utah for hundreds of rights of way in Tooele County, Utah. Five environmental groups opposed this suit, ... (see full summary)

 
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Page 1183

820 F.3d 1183 (10th Cir. 2016)

TOOELE COUNTY; STATE OF UTAH, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant -- Appellee,

and

SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE; THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY; SIERRA CLUB, Intervenor-Defendants.

MICHAEL ABDO; SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE, Appellants

No. 15-4062

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

May 3, 2016

Page 1184

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah. (D.C. No. 2:12-CV-00477-CW).

Jess M. Krannich, Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC, Salt Lake City, Utah, (Stephen H.M. Bloch and Joseph J. Bushyhead, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Salt Lake City, Utah; Brent V. Manning and Alan C. Bradshaw, Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar LLC, Salt Lake City, Utah with her on the briefs) for Appellants.

Anthony L. Rampton, Assistant Attorney General, Utah Attorney General, Salt Lake City, Utah, (Kathy A. F. Davis, Assistant Attorney General and Sean D. Reyes, Utah Attorney General, Salt Lake City, Utah, with him on the brief) for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Before HARTZ, BACHARACH, and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges. HARTZ, Circuit Judge, concurring.

OPINION

Page 1185

BACHARACH, Circuit Judge.

This appeal concerns two suits in state and federal court and statutory limitations on the power of the federal court to enjoin the state-court case.

The first action to be filed was the one in federal court, where the Utah Attorney General and the Board of Tooele County Commissioners sued the federal government under the Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2409a. In this suit, the Utah officials are attempting to quiet title in favor of Utah for hundreds of rights of way in Tooele County, Utah. Five environmental groups opposed this suit, and the federal district court permitted the groups to intervene.

The second suit was the one in state court, where the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Michael Abdo, a Tooele County resident, claim that the Utah officials lack authority under state law to prosecute the quiet-title action in federal court.

The Utah officials asked the federal court to enjoin the Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo from prosecuting the state-court action. The federal district court granted the request and entered a temporary restraining order enjoining the Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo for an indefinite period of time. The Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo appeal this ruling, presenting us with two primary issues.

First, do we have appellate jurisdiction? We conclude that we do. This issue arises because the federal district court called its order a " temporary restraining order," which is not ordinarily appealable. But

Page 1186

temporary restraining orders cannot exceed fourteen days. After fourteen days, the order either lapses or becomes a preliminary injunction. The district court's order had already lasted more than fourteen days by the time the Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo appealed. Thus, the order is treated as a preliminary injunction for purposes of appellate jurisdiction.

Second, did the federal district court have the authority to enjoin the state-court suit? We think not. The All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, grants a district court expansive authority to issue " all writs necessary." But the Anti-Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2283 generally prohibits federal courts from enjoining state-court suits. An exception exists when an injunction is " in aid of" the federal court's exercise of its jurisdiction. This exception applies when o the federal and state court exercise in rem or quasi in rem jurisdiction over the same res and

o the federal court is the first to take possession of the res.

These circumstances are absent because the state-court action is neither in rem nor quasi in rem. Thus, the district court's order violates the Anti-Injunction Act.

I. Jurisdiction existed in district court and exists now in our court.

The parties do not dispute our jurisdiction to hear this appeal, but we must independently examine our jurisdiction and the district court's. See Lovell v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 466 F.3d 893, 897 (10th Cir. 2006). We conclude that jurisdiction existed in district court and exists now in our court.

A. The federal district court had jurisdiction.

The federal court had jurisdiction over the quiet-title suit under the Quiet Title Act's grant of exclusive federal jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(f). Exercising this jurisdiction, the federal district court used its authority under the All Writs Act to issue the temporary restraining order.

The Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo challenge the district court's jurisdiction, arguing that the district court tried " to attach subject matter jurisdiction" over the state-court suit by entering the temporary restraining order. Appellants' Opening Br. at 17. We disagree. When a district court enjoins another court from proceeding with a parallel suit, the district court does not " assert jurisdiction" over the other suit; rather, the district court exercises its own jurisdiction. See

Commercial Sec. Bank v. Walker Bank & Tr. Co., 456 F.2d 1352, 1355 (10th Cir. 1972) (holding that " no new grant of judicial power is contemplated" by a statute empowering federal courts to enjoin state-court proceedings). Thus, we reject the challenge to the district court's jurisdiction.

B. We have appellate jurisdiction.

Because the district court's order took the form of a temporary restraining order, we must address our own jurisdiction. Temporary restraining orders are not ordinarily appealable, but preliminary injunctions are appealable. Hyde Constr. Co. v. Koehring Co., 388 F.2d 501, 511 (10th Cir. 1968) (temporary restraining order); Crowe & Dunlevy, P.C. v. Stidham, 640 F.3d 1140, 1147 (10th Cir. 2011) (preliminary injunction). Thus, we must consider whether the order, when appealed, was truly a temporary restraining order. If it was, it would not be appealable.

But in our view, the order should be treated as a preliminary injunction for purposes of appellate jurisdiction.

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Temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions differ in how long they can last. Temporary restraining orders can last no more than fourteen days[1]; preliminary injunctions can last longer. When a temporary restraining order lasts longer than fourteen days, it becomes appealable as a preliminary injunction. Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 86 n.58, 87-88, 94 S.Ct. 937, 39 L.Ed.2d 166 (1974). This is true even if the district court labels its order a temporary restraining order. See Workman v. Bredesen, 486 F.3d 896, 904 (6th Cir. 2007) (explaining that appellate " jurisdiction is not controlled by . . . the name that a district court attaches to an order" ).

Appellate jurisdiction turns on what kind of order was appealed. The Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo appealed an order labeled as a temporary restraining order. But the federal district court said that the order would remain in effect until the court decided whether to grant an injunction. That period of time was indefinite. For fourteen days, the order functioned as a temporary restraining order. But on the fifteenth day, that order could be treated as a preliminary injunction, for purposes of appealability, because a temporary restraining order cannot last longer than fourteen days.

The Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo appealed on the eighteenth day. Thus, they appealed an order that " we view" as a preliminary injunction. Sampson, 415 U.S. at 87-88. And as a preliminary injunction, the order was appealable. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1).

II. The federal district court violated the Anti-Injunction Act by enjoining the state-court suit.

In the temporary restraining order, the district court enjoined the Wilderness Alliance and Mr. Abdo from prosecuting the state-court action until the district court decided whether to issue an injunction. This order implicated the Anti-Injunction Act, which ordinarily prohibits injunctions against state-court proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2283; see Phelps v. Hamilton, 122 F.3d 1309, 1324-25 (10th Cir. 1997) (" [T]he statute imposes an absolute ban on federal injunctions against pending state court proceeding, in the absence of one of the recognized exceptions in the law." ).

The district court thought that one of the statutory exceptions applied, reasoning that an injunction against the state-court proceeding was necessary for the federal court to aid its jurisdiction over the federal quiet-title action. We respectfully disagree.

A. We review de novo the district court's application of the Anti-Injunction Act.

We would ordinarily review the district court's order for an abuse of discretion. Dominion Video Satellite, Inc. v. EchoStar Satellite Corp., 269 F.3d 1149, 1153 (10th Cir. 2001). But the applicability of the Anti-Injunction Act calls for a legal conclusion. Ambort v. United States, 392 F.3d 1138, 1140 (10th Cir. 2004). Thus, we conduct de novo review of the district court's application of the Anti-Injunction Act. Id.

B. The Anti-Injunction Act prohibited the federal district court from enjoining the state-court suit.

The Anti-Injunction Act ordinarily precludes injunctions against state-court proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2283. But three exceptions exist:

Page 1188 1. Congress " expressly authorized" an injunction.

2. The injunction is " necessary in aid of [the federal district court's] jurisdiction."

3. The injunction is necessary to " protect or effectuate" a previous judgment in federal district court.

Id. Applying the second exception, the district court concluded that an injunction would aid the court in exercising its own jurisdiction. The Utah officials defend this conclusion, arguing in the...

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